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MLB, MLBPA agree on stipulations for return of 2020 season

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Major League Baseball owners have approved a plan to address salary and service-time issues amid the indefinite delay to the start of the regular season, according to ESPN and multiple reports.

The owners completed an agreement reached between MLB and the players’ union Thursday night, which came after nearly two weeks of morning-to-night negotiations that involved players, owners, agents, executives, union officials and commissioner’s office staff.

As part of the agreement, obtained by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the players and MLB primarily agreed that the 2020 season will not start until each of the following conditions were met:

  • There are no bans on mass gatherings that would limit the ability to play in front of fans. However, the commissioner could still consider the “use of appropriate substitute neutral sites where economically feasible”;

  • There are no travel restrictions throughout the United States and Canada;

  • Medical experts determine that there would be no health risks for players, staff or fans, with the commissioners and union still able to revisit the idea of playing in empty stadiums.

While there was no formal framework in the agreement, owners and players both want to play as many games as possible. The flexibility of both sides was seen in the willingness to extend the regular season into October, play neutral-site playoff games in November and add doubleheaders to the schedule.

Players pushed to receive a full year of service time, which counts days toward free agency, arbitration and pension, even in the event of a canceled season. When MLB agreed to grant that, the path to a deal coming together was forged, sources said.

The union agreed not to sue the league for full salaries in the event that the 2020 season never takes place, and MLB will advance players $170 million over the next two months, sources said. The MLBPA will divvy up the lump sum among four classes of players, with the majority of it going to those with guaranteed major league contracts. If games are played, the advance will count against final salaries, which will be prorated.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has the discretion to shorten the 2020 draft to as few as five rounds, and it will be moved from June to sometime in July, sources said.

Manfred also can delay the 2020 international signing period, which was supposed to run from July 2, 2020, through June 15, 2021, to at latest Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 15, 2021. MLB also has the right to shorten the 2021 draft to as few as 20 rounds and push back the next international signing period as well — though international free agency might well be gone by then, as the league plans to pursue an international draft at the conclusion of the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs out in December 2021.

Sources said players drafted in 2020 will get only $100,000 of their bonus this year. The remaining amount will be split into payments made in July 2021 and July 2022.

Also, teams will be unable to trade draft picks or international slot money, sources said.

Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer and Marcus Stroman, among others, are guaranteed to be free agents come November regardless of the season’s status. If the year is canceled, Betts might never play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who traded for him this offseason.

A transaction freeze will go into effect when owners make the deal official that bars teams from signing free agents, trading players and making roster moves.

A rejiggered setting for arbitration, the system that awards players with three, four and five years of service time with higher salaries. While arbitration is a numbers- and precedent-based system typically, the sides will change that to acknowledge the shorter schedule.

Any players punished with a drug suspension will serve the penalty in 2020, even if there is no season, sources said.

While both sides believed they made concessions, they settled around an obvious point: No sports league wants to be seen as bickering about billions of dollars amid an international health and financial crisis. In addition to the agreed-upon financial particulars, the parties engaged in significant discussions about the most vital issue now and in the future: how to proceed amid the outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

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Arizona Diamondbacks cut about quarter of staff with layoffs, furloughs

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The Arizona Diamondbacks have laid off or furloughed about one-quarter of the team’s employees because of lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The organization made the moves on Friday. Remaining staff will take pay cuts that average less than 15%, with the team’s highest earners losing a bigger percentage of their income. The D-backs will continue to pay their minor league players through at least the end of June.

The team’s baseball operations department was largely unaffected. Many of the jobs lost were on the business side, particularly in ticket sales.

“We care deeply about our employees which makes these decisions even more difficult,” owner Ken Kendrick and team president Derrick Hall said in a joint statement. “We have tried to minimize the impact as much as possible but these are truly unprecedented economic times and we recognize that this is affecting everyone in our organization and community.

“We continue to hope and believe that we will play baseball in 2020, but it has become clear that this will be without fans, that the financial losses will be very significant and will undoubtedly carry into next season. Unfortunately, these changes were necessary in order to be in a position to recover when we are able to return to normal operations.”

The Arizona Republic first reported the job cuts.

The MLB season was suspended during spring training in March. The players’ union and owners are in discussions to possibly begin an abbreviated 82-game season in July, but likely without fans in attendance.

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Bengals’ Joe Burrow, Dolphins’ Brian Flores among reaction to George Floyd killing

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Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow said that the “black community needs our help” in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody Monday night in Minneapolis.

“They have been unheard for far too long,” the recent Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick said Friday on Twitter. “Open your ears, listen, and speak. This isn’t politics. This is human rights.”

The comments came after a night of outrage and unrest in Minneapolis, where Floyd, who is black, died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for several minutes.

Chauvin was arrested Friday afternoon and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, local authorities announced.

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who is one of four current minority coaches in the 32-team NFL, issued a statement to ESPN on Friday in the aftermath of several high-profile incidents involving black people.

“Many people who broadcast their opinions on kneeling or on the hiring of minorities don’t seem to have an opinion on the recent murders of these young black men and women,” Flores said. “I think many of them quietly say that watching George Floyd plead for help is one of the more horrible things they have seen, but it’s said amongst themselves where no one can hear. Broadcasting that opinion clearly is not important enough.

“I lead a group of young men who have the potential to make a real impact in this world. My message to them and anyone else who wants to listen is that honesty, transparency and empathy go a long way in bringing people together and making change. I hope that the tragedies of the last few weeks will open our hearts and minds to a better way of communicating and hopefully create that change.”

San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane, who is in his 11th season in the NHL and has been one of its most vocal critics regarding racism in the sport, said on ESPN’s First Take that he hasn’t seen much public comment from NHL players on Floyd’s death or the aftermath in Minneapolis.

“We need so many more athletes that don’t look like me speaking out about this, having the same amount of outrage I have inside, and using that to voice their opinion, to voice their frustration, because that’s the only way it’s going to change,” Kane said Friday. “We’ve been outraged for hundreds of years and nothing’s changed.

“It’s time for guys like Tom Brady and Sidney Crosby and those type of figures to speak up about what is right and what, in this case, is unbelievably wrong. That’s the only way we’re going to create that unified anger to create that necessary change, especially when you talk about systematic racism.”

Kane said last year that bigotry is “easier to ignore, dismiss and forget” because “let’s face the facts: hockey is a white sport.”

Other prominent figures throughout the sports landscape chimed in with comments Friday.

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said he was “disgusted, mad and broken-hearted” about what happened to Floyd.

“Anytime someone loses their life it’s a terrible thing especially when it could’ve been prevented,” Carr said in a post on Twitter. “My opinions won’t make a difference on how that should’ve been handled better, but I do think my platform can be used to help. I don’t know what it’s like to have a different skin color so I won’t pretend to know.”

Orlando Pride forward and U.S. Soccer national team member Alex Morgan said she was “sickened beyond words” by Floyd’s death.

Tennis player Sloane Stephens and champion boxer Claressa Shields also voiced their thoughts on the recent events.

“The world will never grow until we are comfortable having the uncomfortable talks and taking action upon them,” Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal said

Added Houston Astros infielder Alex Bregman: “We are not free until we are free.”



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David Price to pay Los Angeles Dodgers minor leaguers $1,000 to help during coronavirus

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David Price has yet to throw an official pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he has already made a profound impact throughout their organization.

The All-Star left-hander will pay each minor league player who is not on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster $1,000 for the month of June, sources confirmed to ESPN. The remarkable act of generosity will impact just over 200 people facing unprecedented difficulty.

The development was first reported by Francys Romero.

The Dodgers had already committed to continuing their $400-a-week payments to minor league players — domestic as well as those training out of the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic — through the month of June, but the Oakland Athletics recently decided to cease those payments at the end of this week and other teams might soon follow suit.

Minor League Baseball is unlikely to take place in 2020 and upwards of 1,000 minor league players could end up getting released over the coming days. Most of those cuts would’ve taken place at the end of spring training had the coronavirus pandemic not shut down sports in the middle of March, but the strong likelihood of a reduced draft and fewer affiliates in 2021 and beyond puts minor league players in an especially precarious situation.

Most minor league players earn below minimum wage and are not protected by the Major League Baseball Players Association, which is engaged in a contentious negotiation with MLB over compensation for what will at most be a significantly shortened season in 2020. Players were previously given an advance of $170 million for April and May and won’t receive any more than that if the season is cancelled.

Price, the No. 1 overall pick out of Vanderbilt in 2007, joined the Dodgers alongside Mookie Betts in a five-player deal with the Boston Red Sox on Feb. 10. If baseball is played this summer, the former Cy Young Award winner and five-time All-Star will enter the fifth season of a seven-year, $217 million contract he signed in December of 2015.

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